Bronx Neighbors: Maurice Elmalem

Bronxite Mauric Elmalem is something like a jack of all trades, and definitely a master of some.

Living quietly in Riverdale, one would never guess the many talents Elmalem posseses.

Elmalem is a martial arts master, holding seven world championships in Tae Kwon Do, eight Guiness world records and enough trophies to showcase his 45 years of training.

Born in Morocco, he lived in both France and Israel before coming to the United States in 1971.

Elmalem decided to begin training in martial arts after getting into a series of scuffles when he was 12 years old.

“Growing up in places like Morocco and Israel, you have to learn to defend yourself,” he said. “My brother enrolled me in martial arts classes and I took an interest because of the gymnastic which i was also interested in.”

Before leaving Israel to come to the United States, Elmalem trained with the Israeli Army.

He is a sixth degree black belt, a seven time U.S. Cup Gold Medalist, and has been witnessed by millions on television, live shows at Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, Studio 54, Apollo Theatre and the Gleason Arena, featured in over 200 newspapers and magazines, participated in over 600 Championships worldwide, and has accumulated over 550 trophies and 47 gold medals in fighting and breaking.

And although the Riverdale resident can smash through towers of brick, he has made a career out of building them up.

A graduate of Columbia University, where he studied architecture and engineering, he has a passion for creating things — on large and small scales.

The owner of Maurice Contractors & Designers, Inc. on Britton Avenue was listed in “Who’s Who in the East” in 1986 and 1987, where he was cited for his outstanding contributions to architectural design.

Some of his work can be seen at the Royal Athena Art Gallery on 57th Street in Manhattan, as well as Bloomingdale’s interior decorating department, several Citibank locations, Fourth Federal Savings Banks, and many other commercial projects.

“Someone said to me once, ‘if you ever want to make it in life, it is by stone,’” he said. “And that was best advice I ever got because when you invest in gold or stocks there is always risk involved, but with stone it never moves, it’s always there.”

He recently finished two condominium buildings in Riverdale, for which he personally handled the design and layout.

“Weakness for luxury,” Elmalem said. “Everything I build I put the best I can. Most people appreciate it.”

But don’t let his hard exterior fool you; Elmalem has a much softer side as well.

After visiting a butterfly farm while vacationing in Rhode Island, he became mesmerized by the colorful creatures.

“I became fascinated, so I went home and started researching them,” he said.

Elmalem started buying deceased butterflies from manufacturers over the internet and creating 3-D works of art.

“ I mount them in plexiglass,” he said. “Butterflies only have 10-30 days to live before they die. When they die, they fold their wings and people don’t know what to do with them, they throw them away. I thought this was a way to preserve them and their beauty.”

Elmalem has created over 65 frames, available on his website, and he is in the process of looking for a space to sell and display them.

Bio Bits

Favorite Movies: Casablanca and Gone with the wind

Favorite Book: Moby Dick

Favorite place in the Bronx: The New York Botanical Gardens

Most admired people: Michaelangelo and Leonardo DiVinci

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3394

More from Around NYC